Nissan Motor Co.'s appointment of 53-year-old Makoto Uchida as its new president and chief executive officer comes at a critical juncture for the automaker, whose brand has been severely damaged over the past year by the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn over suspected financial misconduct and the recent resignation of Hiroto Saikawa over questions concerning his executive pay.

On the agenda will be rebuilding the automaker's poor sales in the North American and European markets, reversing its sharply declining profits and reviewing its tense relationship with its top shareholder, Renault SA of France. But the most urgent challenge of Nissan's new leadership will be to restore the public trust tarnished over the exit in disgrace of two top executives and enable the firm to start investing in technologies crucial to the future of the auto industry.

There was speculation that to emphasize its departure from the regime led by Ghosn, who reigned over the automaker for two decades before his exit last year, Nissan would possibly select new top management from outside the firm. The eventual decision to choose Uchida, who ran the automaker's China operation, and Ashwani Gupta as chief operating officer is believed to have been made to prioritize stability and balance in the alliance among Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Gupta serves as chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motors and has previous experience working at Renault.